Earlier this month the President of Colombia’s Petroleum Association (ACP), Francisco José Lloreda, shocked the markets when he publicly stated that the country’s current oil reserves would cease allow Colombia to be self-sufficient within 4 or 5 years. He stated that if the current rate of extraction continued, the country would very soon become a net oil importer, spelling disaster for the economy.
However, the president of “Ecopetrol”, Juan Carlos Echeverry Garzón, is now betting on the production of Non-Conventional Oil (NCO), oil derived from low-permeability rock formations. This oil is more difficult to produce because it does not flow naturally through rock structures. The most common example of this is shale oil. The exploitation of NCO has become a trend in the world petroleum market, as reserves are becoming more scarce.
It has been calculated that Middle Magdalena Valley has a potential for the production of at least 5 billion barrels and 20 trillion cubic feet of gas through these non conventional means, which represents at least three times the current national oil reserves for oil in Colombia. Those reserves are reported to be 1,665 million barrels as of 2016, with five times those reserves in gas, according to Echeverry.
Mr Echeverry also said that the support for non-conventional petroleum refineries could ensure Colombia’s self-sufficiency beyond 2020, potentially through 2030 or 2040. This would make the investment in the Barrancabermeja Refinery Plan feasible. On the other hand, Echeverry stated that there was also concern regarding environmental issues, most importantly local water contamination, however a debate needs to be further conducted in order to determine adequate guidelines for the safe exploitation of these resources.
The president of Ecopetrol also emphasized the location of NCO in Colombia which is indeed close to the currently used infrastructure for classical petroleum extraction within the Middle Magdalena Valley. Still, he has also said that there were no official dates to start these operations, as studies are still being performed on the area.
Lastly, he said that according to preliminary estimations, petroleum reserves, as forecasted by the company, could increase from 6.8 to 11 years and that endorsing this activity would benefit Colombians by the creating more jobs in the oil sector.